Bunion Basics: Understanding and Managing Foot Bunions

Bunions, bony protrusions that often develop at the base of the big toe, are a common foot ailment affecting millions worldwide. While they may not be life-threatening, they can be a source of persistent discomfort and impact one’s quality of life.

This blog explores the causes, symptoms, and effective management strategies for understanding and coping with bunions.

Understanding Bunions

What are bunions?

Bunions, or hallux valgus, occur when the joint at the base of the big toe misaligns. The misalignment causes the big toe to point toward the other toes. Over time, the shifting joints and bones lead to a bony bump on the side of the foot.

What causes bunions?

Bunions often develop due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. High heels and shoes with narrower toe boxes can exacerbate the condition, as can specific foot shapes and abnormalities. Additionally, conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis can contribute to their development. Activities with excessive pressure and strain on the toes and joints at their base, such as ballet or running, can also lead to a bunion.

What are the symptoms of bunions?

Common symptoms of bunions include pain, swelling, redness, and restricted movement of the affected toe. The prominence of the bony bump can also lead to the development of calluses and corns.

Managing Bunions

Choose the correct footwear

One of the primary ways to manage bunions is by wearing shoes that provide ample room for the toes. Opt for shoes with a wider toe box and lower heel height to reduce pressure on the affected joint. Avoid high heels and pointed shoes, as they can exacerbate the condition.

Additionally, you can supplement footwear with bunion splints and aligners, or toe taping, all of which help realign the big toe to its natural position.

Custom orthotics

Foot specialist measuring person's foot on an orthotic

Orthotic inserts can provide additional support and help alleviate discomfort associated with bunions. These inserts can be purchased over the counter or customized by a chiropodist to suit the specific needs of your feet.

Toe exercises

Regular toe exercises can improve the flexibility and strength of the toes, potentially relieving some of the pressure on the affected joint. Simple exercises like toe stretch and toe-tapping can be beneficial.

Cold compression and elevation

When experiencing pain and swelling, applying a cold compress and elevating the foot can help reduce inflammation. Cold compression can be beneficial after prolonged periods of standing or walking.

Shockwave therapy

This non-invasive treatment can help treat tight muscles and other soft tissue injuries that can often coincide with bunions.

Pain management

Close up of mild to moderate bunions
Photo credit: iStock

Over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications can effectively manage pain associated with bunions. However, consulting a healthcare professional before starting any medication regimen is essential.

Surgical options

In cases where conservative measures prove ineffective, surgical intervention may be considered. Bunion surgery aims to realign the joint, remove the bony bump, and alleviate pain. Generally, surgery is considered a final resort for severe cases or when conservative methods have failed. Side effects from the surgery include nerve damage, wound-healing problems, and, in rarer cases, osteoarthritis of the metatarsal bone.

Treat your bunions with the help of Toronto's Feet First Clinic

While bunions can be a persistent and uncomfortable condition, understanding the causes and symptoms allows you to manage your foot health proactively.

Individuals with bunions can lead active and comfortable lives by adopting lifestyle changes, wearing appropriate footwear, and seeking professional guidance. If you suspect a bunion or are experiencing persistent foot pain, visit us in-store, book an appointment online, or call us at (416) 769-3338.

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Carolina Charles

Patient Relation Coordinator (She/Her)

If you’ve been to the clinic before, chances are you had the pleasure of meeting Carolina! Carolina’s daily goal is going above and beyond to make sure patients are always completely satisfied. Having worked in the podiatry industry for 22 years, Carolina brings a wealth of knowledge pertaining to client service, insurance policies, and procedures. She steers the ship to make sure everything runs smoothly on the daily. Carolina is known for spicing up every outfit with her signature costume jewellery.